Unleashing Potential: The Impact of Women’s Business Associations in Costa Rica

Women’s business associations play a key role for women in the private sector by leading advocacy efforts, providing business development resources, and fostering networking opportunities. The Center for International Private Enterprise builds the capacity of women’s business associations with the goal of creating more opportunities for businesswomen to achieve sustainable livelihoods and become agents of change in their communities.  

In Costa Rica, 31% of women-owned businesses operate in the informal sector, which is highly vulnerable to demand shocks and exploitation. Women’s business associations fill a critical gap to ensure women can tap into business resources, create networks, exchange ideas, and cultivate leadership skills. CIPE works with women’s business associations, such the Network Association of Women Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development (AREED) representing Costa Rican, Nicaraguan and other migrant women, to offer a supportive and interactive community for women through entrepreneurship fairs, forums, and workshops. 

In March, CIPE supported AREED’s annual general assembly, which provided a platform for members to campaign for positions on the Board of Directors. AREED also held an entrepreneurship fair in commemoration of both the successful elections and Women’s History Month. Women’s History Month just came to an end, and over the last few weeks we took the time to reflect on the takeaways of a previous successful entrepreneurship fair held months prior.

CIPE and AREED hosted one of their highly anticipated entrepreneurship fairs at the Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center in San Jose back in December. Nestled in an open area near the Rescue Center’s gift shop, forty women entrepreneurs and businesswomen from across Central America set up elaborate stands to display a diverse selection of products for sale. The open-concept fair venue welcomed customers seeking unique purchases, all while vibrant peacocks and graceful iguanas roam among the stands, adding to the colorful, outdoorsy ambiance.  

Angela Ramos, founder of Anvi Boutique, showcasing her products

A business stand near the front immediately stood out with its display of personalized pajama sets, bottles, mugs, and shot glasses. Angela Ramos, a native Costa Rican and owner of the stand for Anvi Boutique, had originally embarked on her entrepreneurial journey in response to burnout from her prior job as a private accountant. She was determined to create additional income and provide herself and her mother with a better work-life balance. Anvi Boutique was born, deriving its name from the first two letters of Angela’s first and middle names, Angela and Victoria. The business initially focused on textiles and has since expanded to provide personalization services for clothing, bottles, mugs and other daily-use items.  

Angela’s journey as a woman entrepreneur wasn’t without its challenges and presented emotional hurdles such as feelings of self-doubt. However, Angela stayed resilient and found a community of support to keep her going within AREED. She discovered strategic alliances and continuous learning opportunities. She benefits particularly from workshops and training on marketing and social media management, specific skills in which she faced a learning curve. AREED’s training sessions, networking events, and opportunities for collaboration with entrepreneurs facing similar challenges, made possible through CIPE’s project, propelled Anvi Boutique’s growth. Furthermore, these opportunities have shown Angela a sense of solidarity and support among fellow women entrepreneurs. She now believes that by uplifting each other, businesswomen can overcome societal hurdles, thrive in the private sector, and celebrate each other’s successes.  

Chelsea, age 10, displaying hand soap – the product of her family’s business, Pinky Promise

Further down the row of business stands, a young girl is handing out small flyers to promote her family’s business, Pinky Promise, a business selling natural soaps with surprise toys inside to encourage good hygiene habits among children. Zhianny Chavez and her two young daughters, Chelsea, age 10, and Mariluz, age 7, were inspired with the business idea during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, Zhianny’s son, the youngest sibling of the three, became ill with a respiratory infection that sent him to the hospital, an illness that doctors said he may have contracted from a fellow classmate.  

Amid adversity, Zhianny and her two daughters were inspired by the importance of good hygiene and thus, Pinky Promise was born. As a proud mother, Zhianny supported her daughters’ ambition wholeheartedly and ncluded them in every step of their business’ development. Chelsea and Mariluz’ involvement has not only grown the business but also their self-confidence and their understanding of the importance of financial management. Aside from its inspirational origin story, what makes Pinky Promise unique is its holistic approach to the well-being of all children. Each soap bar box contains stickers with motivational phrases for each day of the week, promoting the habit of daily handwashing and building self-esteem.  

Through her membership in the women’s business association, Zhianny remains committed to growing her business while forming a part of a community that believes in the empowerment of all women. She also works hard to set a powerful example for her own daughters. Zhianny attended training in marketing strategies and financial literacy, honing her skills to drive the growth of Pinky Promise. Through her active participation in events and networking opportunities, she not only boosted her businesses but also created a journey defined by a supportive community. For Zhianny, being a woman entrepreneur holds profound meaning. It is not just about running a business; it is about setting an example for her daughters and empowering them to pursue their dreams. 

Published Date: April 05, 2024